A Gifting Guide for Those Affected by Cancer

The thing about a cancer diagnosis is that it has an impact on multiple people. There’s one person at the centre of a medical storm, but family, friends, even colleagues - they all have their own emotions and practicalities to contend with as a result. Christmas is an excellent time for all these difficult feelings to become heightened. However, if you’re at the centre of the storm, what do you really want for Christmas?

To be treated normally

This is such a tricky line to tread for everyone, and in some ways the best thing to do is acknowledge the cancer in the room so you can then move on from it for a while. If someone has a colostomy bag, ask if there’s anything they want and then trust that if they need help with anything, they will ask. It’s not about pretending that cancer isn’t a thing, it’s about remembering that it’s not the whole thing. They are a person with an identity beyond their diagnosis and current situation. If they mention it, that’s fine - it’s not a secret but it’s not the centre of attention either.

To be asked what they want to do

Sometimes the answer to this question is ‘I don’t know’, but someone with cancer may prefer to have a small but special Christmas over the hoopla of a whole family gathering. If they don’t know, then make your plans and make it clear that they can be involved as much or as little as they want. If they want to come for the whole day - fantastic. If they need a snooze in the afternoon - that’s also ok. Let’s be honest, most of us will want a nap around 4pm anyway. We put some more ideas together on this in our article - Supporting Loved Ones With Cancer.

To be able to be sad

This is another tough topic to get into because everyone has their own way of handling emotions, and every family is different. However, one of the things that comes up time and again with the people we speak to, is the level to which cancer patients take on the emotions of others. So often they feel responsible for other peoples' happiness - not wanting to make loved ones sad or to lean on them too much emotionally.

While we’re also perfectly within our rights as friends and family to have our own feelings about a cancer diagnosis, and it’s great to talk to the person with cancer about that, it’s a juggling act between being open, sharing in the experience and making it about us. There’s no way for us to tell you how to handle your personal circumstances and we wouldn’t dream of doing so. However, we do sometimes find that cancer patients tell us they don’t feel able to be sad because it will make others sad. Sometimes we need to just let them have that moment.


So much around supporting someone when they’re unwell or having a hard time is about being helpful. It’s easy to forget when we want to shower our loved ones with gifts but doing practical things can mean the world. In cough and flu season, someone with cancer might not want to go to the shops - so why not offer to pick things up for them? Offer to do the hoovering (especially if the Christmas tree is shedding needles like they’re going out of fashion). Or volunteer to put up the decorations.

If you’re the friend of a family where someone has cancer, remember that they’re handling this situation all the time at the moment, so is there anything you can do to take some of the strain away? Could you provide a lift to a hospital appointment? Could you pay for a cleaner to pop round? As is so often the case, it’s the little, sometimes mundane things that really do make a difference.


Lots of presents

Finally, your loved one has cancer, they haven’t turned into Tiny Tim. What does a cancer patient want for Christmas? The same as everyone else - presents!

Of course, cancer doesn’t have a direct impact on the gifts that you give. However, a little information can help you choose things that are really meaningful, or, on a practical note, useable, especially for anyone undergoing cancer treatment. For example, if you’re tempted by those gorgeous gift sets of bubble baths and body oils, take a look at the ingredients first. Skin can become exceptionally sensitive when going through cancer treatments like chemotherapy, making lots of high street products unsuitable. So you may want to consider one of the Jennifer Young gift sets, such as the Sandalwood Exclusive Gift Collection, which has been created to both be safe and support the skincare needs of anyone with or recovering from cancer. Then again, if your loved one has particular areas they are struggling with, such as anxiety, you could choose an aromatherapy gift set like the Well Being Beauty - Crown Chakra Balance Collection.


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